- The U.S. Center for SafeSport leveled a lifetime ban against Olympic figure skating coach Richard Callaghan on Wednesday after a former skater accused Callaghan of sexually molesting him beginning at age 14.
- Callaghan was suspended from the Olympics in 2018 for nearly 20 years following an older allegation of sexual misconduct.
- The allegations against Callaghan have stoked comparisons to USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and skater John Coughlin, prompting questions about how Olympic-linked organizations deal with sexual misconduct allegations.
Banned from the Olympics
The U.S. Center for Safesport banned famed Olympics figure skating coach Richard Callaghan for life on Wednesday over accusations of sexual molestation.
The organization made the decision after one of Callaghan’s former students filed a lawsuit claiming that Callaghan sexually molested him when he was 14-years-old.
U.S. Figure Skating then followed suit and banned Callaghan from any kind of skating-related activity in the U.S.
Callaghan, 73, is most known for training skaters Tara Lipinski and Todd Eldredge. Notably, Callaghan oversaw Lipinski’s training when she won the gold medal in ladies’ singles figure skating during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He also oversaw Eldredge’s six U.S. national championship titles, as well as a world championship title.
The allegations were brought by former skater Adam Schmidt, who is also suing U.S. Figure Skating for inaction related to previous complaints made before his alleged molestations. The lawsuit alleges Callaghan molested Schmidt multiple times between 1999 and 2001.
“Today’s announcement is a major victory for all who’ve suffered abuses by the former legend of figure skating, Mr. Callaghan,” Schmidt told ABC News. “Now he will forever be known as the predator who delivered medals to a corrupt organization who accepted them in exchange for the safety and protection of children. US Figure Skating created that culture of abuse that lasted decades and today is the first of many victories to come in reversing that. USFS is officially on notice.”
The ban comes after SafeSport suspended Callaghan from Olympic activity for nearly 20 years after former student Craig Maurizi filed a second misconduct complaint against him in January 2018.
Callaghan has denied the allegations and was first suspended in March 2018, but he will not be able to appeal the permanent ban. According to Callaghan’s attorney, he is “subject to a lifetime ban without due process.”
In 1999, Maurizi filed his first complaint against the skating coach. The allegation, filed to U.S. Figure Skating, details the nature of Maurizi’s relationship with Callaghan, dating back to 1976 when he first began taking lessons from him at the age of 13.
Two years later, Maurizi said Callaghan began acting sexually inappropriate around him, and Maurizi said when he turned 18, Callaghan initiated a sexual relationship. That relationship allegedly continued in an on-again-off-again fashion until 1997.
“At the time, I thought the sex was consensual,” Maurizi told the New York Times in 1999. “Now, when I look back, I don’t think it was consensual. I don’t care how old a student is, whether it’s a boy or a girl, a coach should never have sex with a student. The coach is the person the athlete looks up to for leadership and to be a role model. I don’t think coaches understand the influence they can exert over students. People need to be more aware of this.”
The claims were later dismissed by U.S. Figure Skating and the Professional Skater’s Association because they had been filed more than 60 days from when the alleged abuse occurred.
Within the time-frame of Callaghan and Maurizi’s relationship, The New York Times reported at least five other sexual misconduct claims dating back to the 1980s. The claims range from inappropriate sexual comments to unwarranted sexual advances such as Callaghan exposing himself in a hotel.
“I feel finally vindicated,” Maurizi told the New York Times following Callaghan’s ban this week. “This guy’s a monster. This man has ruined the lives and careers of many people. I believe he should be punished to whatever extent is possible.”
Olympic Organizations’ Handling of Allegations
The allegations against Callaghan are the latest in a series of sexual misconduct allegations against people connected to Olympic athletes.
In 2015, USA Gymnastics broke ties with sports doctor Larry Nassar, and the following year, one of his patients filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. In all, more than 250 women and one man accused Nassar of sexual abuse, many of his patients being underage at the times of their assault.
Nassar pleaded guilty in three different trials, admitting to the molestation of 10 accusers. The 56-year-old is now serving a federal conviction of 60 years and a state conviction of 40 to 175 to years.
In December, U.S. Figure Skating issued a restriction notice to figure skater John Coughlin in relation to unspecified allegations. On January 17, U.S. Figure Skating suspended him, and the following day, he committed suicide.
Since his death, more women have stepped forward, including bronze medalist Ashley Wagner and his former skating partner Bridget Namiotka.
SafeSport later released a statement saying it had uncovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”
This month, U.S. Figure Skating also released a statement saying the organization does not tolerate sex crimes.
“Recent news reports regarding allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in our sport have been heartbreaking,” the statement reads. “We support all survivors, and we encourage all victims of abuse to come forward and report it to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
Many, however, have criticized organizations connected to the Olympics, claiming they have been slow to act in situations involving sexual abuse.
“This should have been done in the ’90s when USFS first knew,” Schmidt’s attorney John Manly told USA Today. “It’s good news but small comfort to those Callaghan hurt. Clearly this move is in response to the horrible press USFS received in response to Adam Schmidt’s filing. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to protect kids from child molesters in Olympic sports.”
Manly argued that because U.S. Figure Skating did not act in 1999 when it received Maurizi’s first complaint, it enabled Callaghan to continue coaching, thus leading to Schmidt’s alleged molestations.
U.S. Figure Skating has defended itself, saying that following Maurizi’s original complaint, it examined its procedures into reporting cases of abuse and updated misconduct policy in May 2000.
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.